Third time’s the charm for Aria as the salon hopes its new home at 15th and John will be permanent after its latest and ‘final’ Capitol Hill move

(Image: Aria Salon)

In 1998, Bianca Brookman opened Aria Salon at 11th and E Pike. Today, the salon has moved three times in twenty years. Aria has re-opened after its third move, and Brookman hopes the salon’s new home on 15th and John is permanent, proving small businesses and the gayborhood can thrive on the Hill today.

“It’s not the Pike and Pine corridor, but we’re in our 20th year, we have amazing staff, and I’m super excited,” Brookman said. “There’s a lot of good energy up here, and we’re ready for another 20 years.”

Prior to the salon’s move to 15th and John behind Bakery Nouveau, Aria resided on E Pine adjacent to Dingfelder’s Delicatessen. Brookman believed Aria would remain in its home since 2008 for years to come, and she sought to make changes to the salon’s layout. While renegotiating Aria’s lease on the space to ensure the salon’s longevity, Brookman learned she could not extend her lease beyond the duration of a development project set to wrap around the building.

She was also concerned with how the new development’s layout would impact the old building’s appearance and structural integrity, even if Aria could afford to remain in the space once construction was completed. Brookman viewed the situation as an opportunity to find Aria its latest permanent home. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Squirrel Chops adds another layer to E Union coffee scene

Shirley Henderson and Sharon Blyth-Moss (Images: CHS)

Shirley Henderson and Sharon Blyth-Moss (Images: CHS)

Change can begin with a good haircut. A good cup of coffee can also help. You can now get both at the latest cafe to open along E Union, Squirrel Chops.

CHS spoke with owners Shirley Henderson and Sharon Blyth-Moss about their plans for the hybrid cafe+salon earlier this year just as construction was getting underway on their space at 22nd and Union inside The Central building, the first of what will be a wave of four-story-plus apartment buildings set to rise around 23rd and Union. Squirrel Chops debuted Sunday after they typical “longer than expected” buildout. Continue reading

New York City? CEO says big investment in Rudy’s still means modest goals for Hill-headquartered barbershop empire

Rudy’s Barbershops, an E Pine-headquartered exporter of Pike/Pine cool to the nation, has a new majority owner in the shape of a New York-based venture capital and buyout specialist. But like many changes on Capitol Hill, the impact of the $9.25 million investment in the indie-minded barbershop style chain is a matter of perspective.

“This is investment in slow growth,” said company CEO Vy Le, who joined Rudy’s four years ago and who remains at the helm through the investment by Syosset, New York-based Northwood Ventures. “A lot of that money is going into existing assets. Simple things like new chairs on Pine,” Le said.

The CEO tells CHS that the purchase of majority control of Rudy’s will mean upgrades at its 15 existing shops and expansion in its existing markets. The Seattle area will see an expanded Bellevue Rudy’s this summer and a long-anticipated West Seattle shop is in the offing. In addition to expansion in existing markets like New York, Portland, and Los Angeles, Le said there will likely be one new market added to the Rudy’s hip haircut empire. The investors are reportedly readying Rudy’s for a three-fold expansion of stores “over the next several years.”

Le said the recapitalization represents yet another new stage in a company that has grown into one of the accidental empires of Alex Calderwood, David Petersen and Wade Weigel. We wrote about the early ’90s, bootstrap-style start of Rudy’s and the Ace Hotels chain late last year after the death of style icon Calderwood. Le said the plan to bring in the involvement of an investor like Northwood Ventures was in the works before Calderwood’s death as the founders’ businesses began efforts to upgrade operations, improve benefits, and shift to the new reality of operations with hundreds of employees. Continue reading